Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park named new ‘Hope Spot,’ an area critical to ocean’s health

August 11, 2022 - 6:00 PM
Aerial view of the North Atoll in Tubbataha Reef (Mission Blue website via Tommy Schultz)

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Sulu was recognized as a new “Hope Spot”, an area that is scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean.

Mission Blue, an international organization that sought to protect the world’s oceans, announced this recognition on Facebook on Thursday, August 11.

“Today, we are pleased to announce a new Hope Spot in the Philippines: the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park!” the post reads.

“Only accessible by sea for a few months each year, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park lies in the middle of the Sulu Sea and is composed of two uninhabited atolls and a reef with reef platforms that are mostly submerged. Wildlife like whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, and 700 species of fish are found in these waters among more than 360 identified species of coral,” it added.

Mission Blue also accompanied its post with photos of the Tubbataha Reef.

With this declaration, environmentalists called “Hope Spot Champions” are pushing for more resources to support more rangers to protect the park.

“Over the years, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park has been successful in preventing illegal and destructive human activities within its boundaries. However, the rangers that maintain the park and enforce protections are under-resourced. The much-needed new ranger station is under construction, and the Hope Spot Champions are pushing for more resources to complete construction and support the rangers who care for the park,” Mission Blue said.

Here are the names of the Hope Spot Champions from the Philippines:

  • Katherine “Trin” Custodio, Executive Director of WWF-Philippines
  • Angelique Songco, Protected Area Superintendent of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and World Heritage Site

The partner government agencies and offices are as follows:

  • Provincial Government of Palawan
  • Municipal Government of Cagayancillo
  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources
  • Palawan Council for Sustainable Development
  • Philippine Coast Guard
  • Philippine Navy

Saguda Palawan, Inc., a non-government organization that protects Tubbataha Reef, is also a Hope Spot partner.

World Wildlife Fund Philippines also posted this announcement on its page.

The organization said that it had partnered with the Tubbataha Management Office for three decades for the park’s conservation.

“Hope Spots are special places that are scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean. For over three decades, we have worked with Tubbataha Management Office in making sure Tubbataha is the healthiest reef in the country by establishing park and conservation initiatives,” WWF-Philippines said.

“This recognition as one Mission Blue’s HOPE SPOT gives us hope that we can #ChangeTheEnding by protecting our oceans,” it added.

In a statement, Custodio highlighted the importance of giving support to Tubbataha Reef’s marine park rangers.

“There are good laws and mechanisms to manage Tubbataha properly, but the people who protect Tubbataha – most especially the marine park rangers – need vital support,” Custodio said.

“They need safe and appropriate facilities to serve as their base out in the middle of the ocean where they stay two months at a time,” she added.

Songco also further said: “Our rangers work tirelessly to protect our natural marine environment – shouldn’t they be taken good care of, too?”

Mission Blue currently has launched 145 Hope Spots that covered an estimated 57,577,267 km2 of the ocean.